Meeting the Health Needs of Arriving Afghan Refugees in New York State
Special Projects Fund
December 13, 2021
WebsiteSEE GRANT OUTCOMES
In August 2021, U.S. armed forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan to officially end the war, leaving behind a humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban quickly retook the country, making many Afghans vulnerable to persecution. More than 12,000 Afghans have fled the country and a total of 75,000 evacuees are expected to arrive in the United States—with 1,300 expected to be resettled in New York State. Most of them have been categorized as humanitarian parolees, and their eligibility for resettlement services has been changing on a regular basis. It is unclear if they will have long-term access to public benefits like Medicaid, be eligible for Office of Refugee Resettlement-funded services, or have any kind of path to permanent residency and/or citizenship. Refugee resettlement agencies frequently provide assistance to individuals with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, and they typically rely on mental health and health care providers to meet the physical and mental health needs of arriving refugees. In 2021, NYHealth awarded the Jewish Family Services of Western New York (JFS) a grant to provide and coordinate services and help Afghan refugees resettling in New York State navigate complex bureaucracies. NYHealth is also supporting a complementary initiative with the New York Immigration Coalition.
Under this grant, JFS provided access to mental health services that often fell outside the boundaries of resettlement services by leveraging its extensive partner network within the region. It ensured that each arriving refugee was screened and connected to necessary services. Trained professionals provided refugees with two mental health screenings, within 30 days and 6 months of arrival, using a culturally appropriate method. JFS also delivered and connected refugees to emergency mental health services and nonclinical support groups as needed. Through screenings, JFC identified additional health-related needs and made referrals to relevant programs and treatment provided by its network of partners.